Chapel, Oriel College


Grade I Listed

Oriel Chapel, consecrated in 1642, is part of First Quad, a group of collegiate buildings from 1620-1642 which survive in substantially their original form. The whole quad is... Read More.

Grade I Listed

Oriel Chapel, consecrated in 1642, is part of First Quad, a group of collegiate buildings from 1620-1642 which survive in substantially their original form. The whole quad is listed grade I. The chapel is also famous for its association with John Henry Newman, a leader in the Oxford Movement of the 1830s. Newman was beatified on 19 September 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.

In 2013-2014 MBA designed a series of improvements including new choir stands, redecorating and relighting the interior.

Chapel Ceiling

The chapel ceiling is formed by two magnificent timber ribbed barrel vaults. No record of the original decoration survives, but based on contemporary precedents, the baroque love of perspective depth, and with a nod to Borromini whose San Carlino is almost exactly contemporaneous (consecrated 1646) MBA introduced trompe l’oiel coffers which gives the ceiling an appropriate stone-like heaviness and the illusion of depth and space beyond.

Choir Stalls

In considering the artificial lighting scheme for the chapel, MBA mapped out all the different lighting conditions that are liturgically required, from the advent candle – a light in the darkness – to the practical requirements for singing hymns. Choristers have a particular problem in stalls designed for trebles, the music must be higher up, but not obstruct views or be obtrusive in relation to the historic joinery. MBA’s solution is a series of slatted dark oak music stands cantilevering from a central steel support.  This rises above the stands to form a continuous horizontal bar incorporating LED downlights and removable candle holders. The new work follows the geometry of the old and sits on the top shelf of the older stall, held in place by its own weight with minimal fixings. The picture shows the second prototype in the workshop. In situ, the stands are so discreet as to be almost invisible.

Reopening

The chapel reopened with a service of thanksgiving on 17 January 2015.

Director of chapel music Dr David Maw says this of the space:

‘For the choir, the Chapel is a space for both physical and acoustical interaction. The recent work has enhanced the choir’s experience of this space in both dimensions. The removal of extraneous furnishings and the restoration of surfaces has refocused the sight-lines of the Chapel, giving the Choir a clearer place within them. So the choir’s central role in the ceremonial of liturgical rite – in processions and in leading participation – has been enhanced. Cleaned and repainted walls and ceiling and the opening of the Oratory have developed the Chapel’s acoustic. The warmth and intimacy of the environment remain, but there is a new brilliance that is telling in the choral sound. We are all delighted with the work.’

On-Going Conservation Work

The chapel improvements are one of a series of projects MBA have carried out at Oriel since 2003 including the Entrance and Porters Lodge, Provosts Lodgings, Pantin Library and Rhodes Building.


Dates
2013, 2014
Location
Oxford, UK

Client
Oriel College
Master of Works
Gerald Inns
Project Architect
Marcus Beale Architects
Job Architect
Daniel Shabetai